tv Patagonias Rick Ridgeway Interview at Atlantic Festival CSPAN October 23, 2018 5:21pm-5:36pm EDT
incredibly successful career lieutenant general. the other one was a very successful stockbroker after he finished his team in the marine corps. i did my flying time and came back and did the things that i did. and today, we live within 250 yards of each other in a little town called round top, population 90, halfway between houston and austin. >> and how's the beer and bait store going? >> we decided it's too damn much work. >> ladies and gentlemen, secretary rick perry. thank you very much for joining us. >> rick, you have -- if you would forgive me, you have a relatively boring title,s and it conceals what is an extraordinarily rich series of
accomplishments and work. indulge me in this litany for a moment. you were part of the first american team to summit k2, one of the highest peaks in the world. you have built and sold companies. you've done product development. you were the founding chairman of the sustainable apparel coalition. you created the incredibly successful stock photo and film agency that specializes in nature and adventure imagery. you've written countless books and magazine stories. what is the throughline that -- what has motivated you from one point in that litany to the next? what's been the constant? >> you know, coming up these steps just now reminded me of a gary larson cartoon where there's a guy on the podium going, now, ladies and gentlemen, the man who's conquered everest, k2, and off the to the side, you see this old guy going like this as he's about to pitch over backwards.
so, the through line. so, i have had this privileged life of being able to go on adventures around the world, the first big wall climb in antarctica that you see on the screen here. i suppose the through line, the most important one of all has been the connection that these adventures have given me to the wild part of the world to the natural parts of the world, and how that connection has informed who i am as a parent, who i am as a business person, as a citizen. if there's anything at the end of this little short session we've got today that all of you could, i hope, take away from this, it's the importance of that connection, not in my life but in your lives. because so many of us have lost that now. and there's so much to be gained from it. >> we are looking at these images of you on the process of
climbing k2, of being the first american team to go to this place. it's 40 years since that trip. what do you find when you go to a place where so few humans have been? >> well, you know, back -- back when we climbed k2 in 1978, as you said, just now 40 years ago, and now it's considered of the high altitude mountains in the world the hardest mountain in the world to climb. and it's just a good thing we didn't know that back then. but that's actually a serious comment, because it represents the limits that all of us can place on ourselves, you know, if we think in terms of barriers instead of opportunities. so, i took so many lessons from the high altitude that i brought home to sea level from that
climb of k2 and applied to my life, all those four decades ago. obviously, i learned what tenacity can do. you know, i learned about -- you know, not so much taking risk. people think you're a climber, you're a risk taker, but climbers learn to manage risk. and when you take those lessons and bring them back home and apply them to your job, you know, that can do extraordinary things. but again, the most important lessons of all were those connections to nature. you know, of these achievements, this litany of things that i've done, there's one that just happened that's really cool. going got guinness book of world records with my climbing partner, who took that photograph of me that you're looking at, because shortly before he took that shot, right there on that day, we were paused on the climb when a cloud of butterflies came by and landed in the snow. we were at 23,500 feet and we
took some pictures of them and i put it in the book i wrote about the climb. and just a few months ago, some entymologists were reading that book and they asked if we had a photo, they named the species and we're going into the book of records for the highest recorded sighting of an insect in history. >> before we talk about patagonia, the company. i wanted to ask you about patagonia, the place. you've been there enough to see it evolve from a relatively remote and untrammelled place to one that's drawn a lot of tourism. what has been lost or gained in that transition? >> well, again, our little interview here needs to be about the founder of patagonia, you know, more than me. and the company's called patagonia because in 1968, he went on a climb there with his partner, doug tompkins, who
founded the north face, to do what then was only the third ascent of fitzroy, one of the most emblematic peaks in patagonia. it took them two months to climb the mountain. they drove an old ford fan from california to patagonia, that took six months, and the experiences from that climb directly informed how doug formed the north face and later the clothing company espirit and in fact, that's why the company's called patagonia, that peak on your label of your jacket is fitzroy. and it was the inspiration from that trip that guided the lives of both of those people, and it was going back to this place that we all fell in love with and seeing what happened to it over the interim decades since the late '60s where we've witnessed grasslands actually
turn into deserts. we've witnessed forests being clear cut of beech trees that will take generations to regrow, if they ever do. and i think most astounding in our own lifetimes, it's witnessing the disappearance of the glaciers that we climbed when we were kids that now are no longer there, and when you witness geologic change in human time, it can be so profound, it is so profound that you've just, as an individual, got to do something about it. and if you're in business, as ivan has done, you use your business as a tool and an agent for environmental protection, and that is ultimately the origin of it. the origin of that commitment. >> let's talk about bears ears. a big focus of patagonia, the company's recent activism, has been around the bears ears monument, which was significantly expanded under the obama administration and then
contracting again under the trump administration. now, patagonia has taken the trump administration to court over the reduction in bears ears. i'm curious about the approach that you've taken with a company like walmart, just as an juxtaposition with the approach to the trump administration. walmart is often thought of as a company that, in its approach and in its values, is almost diametrically opposite to patagonia's, making new things, lots and lots of them, as opposed to reuse, and yet you've partnered with them. but you've had a very -- you've taken a very hard line as a company and your ceo has taken a very hard line on the trump administration, even showing off his -- he's called it evil government. why that divergence in approach? >> well, let me answer your question by backing up to the first part of it where you
yourself said that we took this activist approach, and you know, i've been a groupie there at patagonia since it started in 1973 as one of the main climbing partners, you know, hanging out there, doing contract work for them going all the way back to the beginning so i've been there as a witness to watch how he founded the company, as i said a minute ago, to be a tool for environmental activism, for initially supporting activists. and so i've watched this place now for a little over 45 years, and i can say that it has never been more committed to activism than it is now. it's now over $1 billion a year company and it's getting ornery and ornerier every year which is the opposite of what happens to most companies when they grow and it is doing kick ass activism now. here's another thing. in the 45 years plus we've been in business, we've never been more successful as a business
than we are right now, so as a business model, it is really working. and as a business model, we want to hold that up to other companies like walmart and say, you know what? this works. and walmart, we've been doing things with them now for 15 years, and they come back like a lot of big companies do and say, well, you guys can be, you know, that extreme, that activist, because you serve, you know, the very tip of the customer pyramid, the segment that's right at the top, and we say, you know, guess what, guys? you better pay attention, because that pyramid's turning upside down and it's no longer this isolated segment of customers that support our business, but it's a very fast increasing base that is your base and you need to pay attention to that. and you know, our -- the people running walmart, we've been working with them over -- through three ceos now, and they've all been committed, to
varying degrees, to guiding their company towards increasing commitments to sustainability, and they're serious about it. but you know, over those 15 years, little by little, you know, they're getting more and more committed, and we respect the position we've had as it has been influencing them in any way we can towards those increasing commitments. and just two weeks ago, we made the most recent one, where we launched a campaign called time off to vote where we're trying to get other companies to follow our lead to give their employees the time to go to the polls. thank you. we've -- as of two or three days ago, we had 190 companies that have joined us. there were 30 more in the pipeline two days ago. i bet it's north of 200 this morning. but the biggest one joining us is walmart. and that is really important.
and they deserve an applaud for that. >> to go back to bears ears for a second, if you spoke to, say, senator orrin hatch in utah, he would say that the closing off of this land to oil and gas exploration is taking away -- that oil and gas exploration could fund public schools and was designated to fund public schools, and i think to some americans, they hear -- they hear a commitment to conservation, to preserving the environment, as an abstract value that takes away from something that's very tangible, money that could go towards educating kids in public schools. and how do you answer that? >> well, we answer it using the same lexicon of vocabulary that he does. dollars. and we can make a very defensible argument that keeping
bears ears protected will add more economic value than cutting it off, reducing it in size, and selling it off to the highest bidder in the extractive industry and mining -- oil and mining industries, and that is a very defensible argument. our industry, the outdoor industry, collectively adds to the gnp of the country $870 billion a year. we are an enormously influential industry that creates tens of thousands of jobs in the areas around the protected areas, and the region in utah immediately adjacent to bears ears is a very good example of that where the small towns like boulder, utah, are actually enjoying an economic boom because of the expansion of bears ears and its neighbor, escalante national park. so we can make an argument for that that supports our lawsuit against this current
administration to reduce the size of those two monuments. >> do you -- do you worry at all that the boldness of your advocacy and of your ceo's rhetoric, to call the trump administration an evil government, for example, do you worry that that contributes to a political divergence that's harmful? >> we do. and we should all be worried about that, but we cannot turn our back on the opportunity to reverse this destruction of our -- an environment too concerned about bringing the two sides back together, and if we could do anything to implore civil society of our country to bring themselves back together, it would be to get out into those places, to get out into nature, to learn from nature. that's what we came from as human beings and that's what we have to go back to and that's what will bring us together. >> rick ridgeway, vp of public engagement at patagonia, thank you so much for joining us this morning. >> thanks, matt.